Meat Advisory Panel's comment on overcooked meat and cancer

A recently-published Norwegian study has associated high doses of a chemical substance (HCA) found in burnt meat with a higher risk of colon cancer. However, it should be noted that the study was conducted in genetically-modified mice, so-called ‘human mice’ which are not normally exposed to cooked meat. 

Commenting on the study, Dr Carrie Ruxton, a nutritionist on the Meat Advisory Panel, said: “Mice are a poor model for humans, so this study has limited relevance to public health. Mice, even those which have been genetically modified, would not normally be exposed to substances found in cooked red meat. Therefore, it is questionable whether this study adds anything new to what we already know about diet and colon cancer risk. In addition, it is recognised that colon cancer is multifactorial and risk is influenced by smoking, obesity, differences in the quality of cancer diagnosis, and lack of exercise, as well as the fact that people are now living longer

“The topic of meat and cancer was addressed earlier this year by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). This expert panel concluded that, an average daily red meat intake of up to 70 grams per day (as cooked meat)(1)  is safe for adults(2) .  Average intakes in the UK are already below this level, suggesting that, for most people, red meat consumption does not need to be reduced. 

“Meat and meat products make a significant contribution to intakes of iron, zinc, selenium, vitamin D and B vitamins, and the Department of Health advises that lean red meat should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet. To enjoy meat safely, it is recommended that meat is cooked without additional fat, and burning or charring of meat is avoided”.

To see NHS Choices' analysis of the study please visit


Notes to editors:  

If you would like further information on red meat and cancer please visit:

For more information on a wide variety of meat and health topics, please see 


1 Henderson L, Gregory J, et al. (2003). The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Adults Aged 19-64 Years. Volume 3 Vitamin and mineral intake and urinary analytes. London, The Stationery Office.
2 SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition). (2009). "Draft SACN Report on Iron and Health."   Retrieved 1st November 2010, from